Two men have set up a makeshift camp in the city as their solution to having a roof over their head.
One of the men was among the 10 who lost their home in an apartment fire on Oct. 18. Larry Wong said “it was devastating. There were 10 people who lost everything.”
Then he met Jamey Sterritt, a man who rode into Prince Rupert in the summer with his three dogs. Sterritt had a spare tent and invited Wong to stay with him.
“I was staying in the house over here,” Sterritt said from inside his shelter on Lotbiniere Street behind 7th Avenue West. “I understood I had tenancy there. The police told me I didn’t. I got out, I camped outside and eventually I worked myself up to here.”
The makeshift camp on Lotbiniere Street. SHANNON LOUGH/THE NORTHERN VIEW
He explained that his dogs had been impounded for not having a collar and he was on his laptop trying to figure out more information on their status.
The large green tarp positioned over a two-man tent is set up on the edge of the street with a sign that reads “Private Property” near the entrance. The two men huddled inside while the rain bounced off their makeshift shelter.
The City of Prince Rupert have responded to the situation. “In no circumstance would the city ever want people to feel that this is their only option. Due to resident complaints, city bylaw officers delivered letters to the two gentlemen who have set up their campsite within city limits. After confirming that two rooms were locally available, the letters directed the men to an appropriate contact person where these spaces are available,” said Veronika Stewart, the communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert.
“The city continues to advocate to the province for the development of further affordable housing for Prince Rupert,” she added.
This is not Sterritt’s first time setting up a tent within city limits and bylaws. “I’ve been though this 100 times in different tent cities, in Vancouver, and all over,” he said and he expects he’ll have to go to court over the issue as he has done other times before.
For Wong, it’s a temporary solution but he hasn’t had much luck finding a new place to live. When he lost his home in the fire he said he was grateful that Emergency Social Services put him in a hotel for three days and gave him funds to buy supplies.
“The first day is shock. The second day you have to do the shopping. They give you $300 to spend, and the next day you’re trying to figure out where you’re going to go — plus you have $300 stuff to carry around with you,” Wong said.
He went to the Salvation Army and then looked through the ads for a place to stay but was unsuccessful.
“I’m happy for James. He’s the kindest man,” Wong said. “There’s no help and if there ever is a disaster in Rupert.”
More to come.